A senior Norfolk councillor has blamed the county's high number of tractors and other farm machinery for the poor state of its roads.

Bill Borrett said that large agricultural vehicles were harming rural routes which were not built for such heavy machines, making Norfolk one of the worst places in the country for potholes.

He made the point to call on Westminster to provide a greater share of funding to Norfolk to carry out surface repairs.

 "More is being demanded of these roads than they were ever designed or built for," he said.

"The size of the agricultural machinery is such that the roads cannot cope."

Eastern Daily Press: Bill BorrettBill Borrett (Image: Supplied)

Mr Borrett, a Conservative councillor, was speaking in a County Hall debate on how to improve the quality of Norfolk's roads.

A recent report identified the county as having one of the nation's worst pothole problems, raising safety concerns for motorists and cyclists.

The average time to fix potholes in Norfolk has almost doubled in a year, and Norfolk County Council is now the fourth slowest in the country at carrying out road repairs.

It hit the headlines recently after it emerged that one pothole, on Church Street in Reepham, took 482 days to repair - the third longest delay recorded in a national survey.

Eastern Daily Press: Sugar beet lorries near CantleySugar beet lorries near Cantley (Image: James Bass)

Mr Borrett said the solution was not to restrict the movement of farm machinery, but for more money to be given to the county to fix the problems.

"This machinery is vital to these businesses remaining economically viable and I am not suggesting we stop them using these roads," he added.

"But, in our case to the secretary of state, we need to do some special pleading about how this is causing an issue the council is having to manage.

"I do hope we can make a case to the secretary of state."

Eastern Daily Press: Transport secretary Mark HarperTransport secretary Mark Harper (Image: PA)

Councillors were discussing the issue after the Liberal Democrats raised a motion highlighting the poor state of the county's roads and its record on fixing potholes.

The Conservatives amended the motion to focus on the call to lobby the government for extra money.

While councillors said County Hall's highways team worked hard to make repairs, they were hamstrung by a lack of cash.

Members unanimously agreed to lobby transport secretary Mark Harper for extra money.

Eastern Daily Press: Norfolk County Council is to lobby for more cash to fix potholesNorfolk County Council is to lobby for more cash to fix potholes (Image: © ARCHANT NORFOLK 2010)

Lib Dem Rob Colwell said: "Norfolk County Council should be embarrassed by the government's lack of action or concern.

"Potholes come up time and time again and there are concerns that taxpayers' money is being wasted on repairs which have to be repaired again after only a short time."

The government did announce in March's budget that it would provide a £6.4m boost to the county to fix and maintain Norfolk's roads.

However, Green county councillor Paul Neale said that was "totally insufficient". He said: "This government has decimated local authority budgets. It has put our road system into a state which is a disgrace and a danger for all road users."

Eastern Daily Press: Rob ColwellRob Colwell (Image: Rob Colwell)

Graham Plant, Conservative cabinet member for highways, transport and infrastructure, said the situation was being "exaggerated".

But he added: "I cannot deny we have got a reduction in the average budget, which is why we need to write to the minister.

"We'd love to get another £20m and I am prepared to write to central government and ask for that money to repair potholes and make roads safe."

Conservative Brian Long said he thought the state of Norfolk's roads was better than those in Cambridgeshire and "on a par, if not better" than those in Suffolk.

Eastern Daily Press: Paul NealePaul Neale (Image: Paul Neale)

However, he added: "That's not to say we don't want to do better or more, because people's cars are getting damaged and we do not want to pay compensation which could have been avoided if the pothole was fixed in the first place."

Eastern Daily Press: Graham PlantGraham Plant (Image: Newsquest)

And Labour's Emma Corlett said some of the road repairs done in her Norwich Town Close division had degraded in a matter of days.

Eastern Daily Press: Emma CorlettEmma Corlett (Image: Emma Corlett)

She said: "This is not just about car users, but the safety of cyclists and pedestrians as well."

She added: "We could do so much more if we scrapped the Norwich Western Link."

The council is still waiting to hear if the government will approve the business case and bankroll the bulk of the cost for that £251m road, which would connect the Norwich Northern Distributor Road to the A47 west of the city.


The figures for what it would cost to bring all of Norfolk's road network up to a good standard are eye-watering.

Bosses at Norfolk County Council have previously said it would cost £57.4m to tackle the backlog of repairs and maintenance needed on our roads.

And County Hall simply does not have that much money available to carry out work which is so important to the people who live and work in Norfolk.

Too often, the authority has to rely on the odd hand-out from the government in order to pump more money into repairing the county's roads.

It is impossible for a council to plan where it is going to prioritise the spending of the money it does have when the way the authority is funded is done on such as short-term basis.

Councillors debated the issue of potholes on the county's roads at a recent meeting - and it was acknowledged by those of all political hues that the money available to fix them is not enough - and has gone down.

The county's highways team was praised for its efforts given the finances which are available to them, but there were also tales of repairs having to be done again, soon after maintenance is carried out.

Unanimous decisions are relatively rare at County Hall, but all agreed that the council should put more pressure on the government to provide more money to fix them.

And Conservative Bill Borrett made the pertinent point that our roads were not built or designed to cope with the types of agricultural vehicles which now use our rural network.

He says they are contributing to the problems. He is not saying they should not use the roads, but is calling for the government to recognise that they do - and to provide money to Norfolk with that in mind.

It will be interesting to see what the government's response is, although history should perhaps warn us not to expect Whitehall to grasp the needs of a rural county.